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I’ve been thinking lately of picnics and barbecues and celebrations. Not that I have anything in particular to celebrate, but just because the onset of finally warm weather and the greening of the fields around me, put me in that frame of mind. Come to think of it, that’s reason enough to celebrate.
My housemate and I have been toying with the idea of a weekend bbq get together for a few dozen of our closest friends. Actually not that many at all, but still, it’s a great idea. Since many will be coming from some distance away, our bbq will be more like a weekend, but the main focus will be the Saturday night, Canada Day celebration. I’m thinking about my “killer wings”, burgers and sausages, a couple of salads and ice cream for dessert.
These wings are a standard at my house. Can’t bbq at all without making up at least a small batch of them. As most of you know, I’m a “seat of my pants” kind of cook and this recipe is no exception. Over the years it’s gone through some changes, mostly adjusting itself to the heat tolerance of those for whom the wings are intended. As my sons have become more adventurous in that regard, they’ve taken over the preparation and the heat level has increased exponentially.
The smallest batch we’ve ever made was five pounds of wings, the largest was I think fifty pounds (for a family reunion). Funny thing though, no matter how many we make, there’s never any leftovers. So, for five pounds of wings, this is what we do. In small batches, deep fry the wings till they’re golden brown. Alternatively, you can par cook them by boiling them for 15 or twenty minutes, they should be just about done when you remove them. I do this on occasion then use the stock as a base for soup.
When you’ve removed them and allowed them to cool and drain, sprinkle them with a quarter cup of cornstarch and mix well to coat evenly. Then in no particular order add the following ingredients: the juice of two lemons or ¼ cup malt/cider vinegar, 2 tbsp salt, 2 tsp thyme, two to four jalapeño peppers finely chopped. That’s the basic mix. Combine well to make sure it covers everything evenly.
From this point is where the boys and I get creative. You can leave them as is and they’ll be great, or you can get creative and make them “killer”. Here’s how. There’s always several different products in my fridge for heat and flavouring. Sometimes we pick one or two, sometimes we use all of them, basically dosing the wings with anywhere from a teaspoon to a couple of tablespoons depending on what flavour we’re most trying to emphasize. This is a personal thing though, based on what your tastes are and how “hot” you like it. It’s helpful, if you are so inclined, to know what each of your different hot sauces tastes like, so you CAN take care to emphasize and achieve just the right “taste”. And don’t be fooled, while they are all hot, all hot sauces are not equal. While heat is important, flavour is essential.
As a starting point, here’s a list of the products I try to keep on hand regularly. Emeril’s Bayou Blast, Endorphin Rush, several products from the Mild to Wild Pepper and Herb Company® (http://www.wildpepper.com) such as Ralph’s Righteous Habanero Sauce, Red Savina Garlic Fiery Hot Habanero Sauce, and my personal favourite, Smokin’ Chipotle Sauce. I also use Sambal Oelek, Chinese Chili Garlic sauce and all manner of Chinese, Japanese and Thai pastes. (Thinking there may be a column here.) For a nice tangy but not killing heat, reduce the number of jalapeño peppers from four to two and use only Mild to Wild’s ® Smokin’ Chipotle Sauce or Finishing Sauce (for an even milder flavour) to coat the wings.
Once the wings are suitably seasoned, set them aside to macerate for about half an hour then grill quickly to heat through and crisp them up. Set them out and watch them disappear.
Aahhh barbecue!!! Wings, burgers, sausages, almost heaven. Add a few quick and easy salads and you’ve got a perfect meal.
Try a couple of the following or come up with your own, just remember the key is to keep it simple and tasty.
My good friend Tree makes this often in the summer and while I’m not a fan of pasta salads usually, this one is a good one and sure to become a favourite in your house. It’s a bonus that it’s easy to do too.
Cook in boiling salted water till just al dente a one kilo (2 pounds) bag of your favourite medium to small size pasta shape. Shells are great, but just about anything will do. Drain, coat with a couple of tbsp of olive oil and allow to cool. Drain and crumble three or four 7 oz cans of tuna and add to the pasta. Stir well to combine and stir in about three cups of good mayonnaise (you may need more or less so add it one cup at a time until you’ve reached the desired moistness level). Adjust seasoning and set in refrigerator before serving.